LAY (1809-1907) HAD IMPACT ON COMMUNITIES IN EAST TENNESSEE
By Dallas Bogan
Reprinted with Permission from Dallas Bogan.
This article was published in the LaFollette Press.
With permission from
the Lay Family Genealogical Association (LFGA), we shall now take from
the writings of Gerald Lay and Don Lay, text submitted by Gerald Lay.
The title of this essay is "He Fought the Good Fight - He kept
the Faith." It concerns the life of William L. Lay, 1809-1907.
William L. Lay was born in 1809, the same
year that James Madison became the fourth President of the United States,
and also the same year that Abraham Lincoln was born. William was born
to Bird and Elizabeth Lay. The 1850 Campbell County, Tennessee, Federal
Census records show William as age 41, and employed as a farmer. The
book, "History of Kentucky" reveals that William was born
in Knox County, Tennessee. His father, Bird, as evidence states, was
born about 1780 in Virginia.
William Lay's childhood is a mystery.
However, he spent 97 years on this earth, married twice and had eighteen
children. He was a well-known land owner, owning several hundred acres
of land. He was also a prominent preacher and Justice of the Peace.
Most residents referred to him as 'Billy' or just plain 'Preacher.'
In October, 1830, William's father, Bird,
bought a portion of land in Kentucky on the lower end of Elk Fork Creek
near the Tennessee border. This small creek empties into the Clearfork
River about two miles inside Kentucky.
William L. Lay married Elizabeth Ellison about the year 1830. She was
the daughter of William Ellison, Sr., of Wolf Creek, Kentucky. They
lived for a time in Whitley County, Kentucky. Their children are: Mary,
Helen, Hiram, Jesse, William Paris, James, Lewis, Michael, Ida, John
L., Nancy, Rachel, Isaac and Berry.
The 1846 Campbell County Clerks office
show that William L. Lay, Justice of the Peace, performed marriages
in Campbell County.
On August 23, 1849, he purchased a land
grant, # 27248, at a tax sale, from the State of Tennessee for 50 acres.
On February 4, 1853, he obtained another land grant, #28695, for 250
acres. This land was situated in the area of Lone Mountain, a rather
small ridge separating the main valley from Pine Mountain at the northern
end of Elk Valley. Located just south in the valley of Lone Mountain
is another small ridge called Little Lone.
William was the owner of land at both
ends of the Lone Mountain and portions on both sides. A cave is located
on this property, most likely used by the family for storing their winter
supplies. It has a clear branch running through it called "The
Cave Branch." The property, along with the cave, was later purchased
by Nat Sewell of Corbin, Ky., who dammed up the stream and created a
recreational lake. William L.'s son, Reverend Michael M. Lay, told of
playing in the cave as a child. Gerald Lay relates a story told by his
father concerning a dog that got lost in the cave. The dog was later
seen in the Stinking Creek area on the other side of the mountain. The
theory was that the cave ran through the mountain and exited the other
side through an unknown opening.
The railroad purchased right-of-ways from
William's neighbors, about the year 1867, which caused problems for
him accessing his timber. He immediately exchanged a portion of his
land for a right of entry over the railroad property.
William L. Lay's wife, Elizabeth, died between 1870 and 1872. Her gravesite
is unknown. William L. Lay, at age 63, remarried to Elizabeth (Betty)
Anderson; his new wife was aged 33. This couple had four children: Louisa,
Jane (Jennie), Calvin and Samantha (Mattie).
A record shows that William L. (Billy)
Lay preached the opening sermon at the fourth Annual meeting of the
West Union Association of United Baptists, of which Elk Fork in Elk
Valley is a founding member.
On March 10, 1890, William sold most of
his Elk Valley land, composing of 345 and 3/4 acres, to James Lawson
of Capuchine, in Scott County for $3500.
William L. and Elizabeth Lay purchased
land in Whitley County, Kentucky and removed to the area. According
to the deed, the property paralleled the Williamsburg and Huntsville
William and son Reverend Michael Lay were
originally associated with the United Baptist Church. A local paper
said that Rev. Horace Meadors, Rev. Michael Lay, and Rev. J.M. Burnett
"continued the religious work with the Union Church, preaching
in the public school building at Williamsburg."
Around 1800 a Missionary Baptist endeavor
generated Sunday schools and churches in the area. Also included in
this effort was the establishing of Cumberland College in Williamsburg,
Ky., and the Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee.
The spring of 1906 found William suffering
from the problems of old age. Michael's (William L. Lay's son) daughter,
Mamie, said her grandfather William lived with them for a short time.
She remembered him sitting on the side of the bed, and it "seemed
to me like he was a slender man, tall, and he had lots of hair, and
it was sandy looking. Daddy said that he was almost red headed. He must
have been 96 or 97 when I remember him."
William L. Lay was a survivor. He conquered
the rough times through the many illnesses that are today looked upon
as minor incidents. He passed away on January 30, 1907, at the age of
97 years, one month and five days. He was buried in the midst of other
family members at the Upper Marsh Creek Baptist Church Cemetery.
Found in the Scott County Historical Society:
William L.'s descendants can be proud of this forefather. He stood for
God and Country. The moral and ethical standards that he instilled in
his children have been passed down through the generations, and we trust
they will be passed on to all future generations.